Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes said she was "relieved" that her challenging week at these world championships has finally come to an end. Now, it appears, her competitive skating career might be following suit.

Following her free skate last night at MCI Center, Hughes, 17, shed some light on just how difficult this season really has been. Although she had seemingly been able to keep her life together following her magical four minutes in Salt Lake City, she offered a glimpse of just how hectic her life really has become.

"I definitely did a lot more than I thought was possible," said Hughes, who placed sixth in her fourth -- and possibly final -- trip to the world championships. "And I survived.

"It's been an incredible leap in my life and I had to go and ride with it, but I'm glad it's over."

The ride was supposed to continue next Friday in Baltimore when the Champions on Ice tour begins a 27-show run, but now Hughes said that might not happen.

"Unfortunately," she said, "I'm not exactly sure. I was going to go on a skating tour but nothing has been finalized. So who knows if I'll be there?"

Champions on Ice founder and promoter Tom Collins declined to comment.

Life used to be so simple for her. She went to high school in Great Neck, N.Y., and she trained. Since the Olympics, she has had major endorsement deals, she starred in a TV special and she had to fill out college applications. She had a knee injury and speaking engagements and one awards banquet after another.

Her training suffered and so did her competitive performances. The first gold medalist since Katarina Witt to return to the competitive world after winning the Olympic crown, Hughes is just now realizing how intensely crazy the last year truly has been.

"I definitely have to calm a lot of things down," Hughes said.

This week, she turned out a disappointing routine to place sixth in the qualifying round and then was ninth after the short program. Last night, she landed five triples -- no triple-triples like she did in Salt Lake -- and she fell on a triple flip.

The routine was slow and her spins were far from brilliant, but the crowd gave her warm applause mostly for showing up at this competition at all. The judges, meanwhile, gave her low marks, including a 4.8 in technical scoring. She began this season in quest of her first national and world titles. She finished last night with neither.

Afterward, she sounded like someone who wanted to rediscover the passion she once had.

"Skating is probably my first true love," she said. "And I'd love to go back and enjoy it again."

Sarah Hughes, after fourth trip to world championships: "It's been an incredible leap in my life and I had to go and ride with it, but I'm glad it's over."